Travel and Photography – Alaska

These photos were taken in, around, and between Palmer and Seward, Alaska.  I’m sure you have heard how beautiful Alaska is.  I had too, but the beauty exceeded my expectations.  Some refer to it as “God’s country”.  One certainly gets that feeling, with the overwhelming and untouched scenery.

Travel and Photography – Oahu

No – I’m not changing this to a travel blog.  Well, maybe temporarily.  I love to travel, and I love photography.  While I enjoy travel blogs – I am not in a position to be traveling often enough to maintain a blog on the topic!  But, over the years, I have gotten to go on some great trips.  I just bought my first “real” camera in December.  So, while I didn’t always have the highest quality camera on some of these trips, I still managed to get some beautiful shots.

Hawaii seems to be in the air.  A co-worker just returned from Oahu and Kauai, and I saw an old classmate was on a plane heading that way earlier today.  When I decided that I might post some photos from some of my past trips, the first disk of photos I found was of my husband’s a my trip to Hawaii in 2009.  It was our last trip together before we had our son.  In fact, I found out the previous week that I was pregnant – so technically my son was with us in my tummy – although very tiny!

I enjoyed going through these photos and picking out the best ones.  I hope you enjoy them too.

This has always been one of my favorites from the trip. I love the variety of vibrant colors.
These trees could be found around the island. So bizarre and cool!
Through the roof of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. A beautiful and humbling Memorial site.
Took this during our road trip around the island.
Turtle Bay. We had a lovely day snorkeling in this spot.
Hibiscus
Maybe this doesn’t fit in with the other scenic photos. This is from the Waikiki Aquarium. I couldn’t bring myself to eliminate it because I have fond memories of this guy. I watched him for a long time.
That was our hotel – the two towers. It was beautiful, and I loved the harbor in front of the hotel
I seem to have kind of a thing for harbors. Although, I have no desire to own a boat. Weird.

Honolulu, taken from the top of Diamond Head.

 

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Full of Flaws

Easter Week – What a great time to go to a Chris Tomlin concert.  My husband and I went to “Worship Night in America” on Tuesday.  It was awesome.  Besides Christ Tomlin, Big Daddy Weave, Phil Wickham, Zach Williams and others performed.  We really enjoyed and were very moved by the concert.

But something weird happened during.  We were in this arena that holds over 10,000 people.  It was pretty packed, and dark.  Everyone was standing, as you often do at a concert.  The seats were theater style – the kind that flip up when you’re not seated.  I had put my purse on the floor in front of me.  Someone was coming through our row, so I bent down to pick up my purse so he wouldn’t trip on it.  I then held it close to me, with both arms.  Not to protect it, but still trying to move out of the way to give the gentleman as much room as possible to pass through.

But I started thinking what I might have looked like to the people around me.  I probably looked like I was overly concerned about my purse, which would seem strange at a Christian concert.  Maybe not strange . . . un-trusting.  Not full of grace.

Do you ever do that?  Start to obsess about what people think of you?  I used to be much worse about it.  The pressure I put on myself to always act and react perfectly seems worse at Christian events.

Many of the songs performed that night were about heaven.  What we have to look forward to.  There’s so much I can’t imagine.  I was standing there, thinking in heaven, I won’t have to worry about silly things like how weird I looked clutching my purse.

The funny thing is, the stranger sitting next to me struck up a conversation during intermission.  So, either he didn’t notice the purse situation or he gave me the benefit of the doubt.  I had been fussing internally over nothing.

It got me to thinking about how full of flaws I am – and how other people sometimes may be harsher than God in their assessment of my actions, partially because God knows my heart.  I also need to be careful in my assessments of others.  Rather than worry, I need to trust that each encounter will go as it’s intended – some more smoothly than expected, and others may be full of conflict.  God puts us in each others’ lives to refine us.

 

 

 

My Hope is You Alone

If you’ve followed my blog, you may know that I often have a contemporary Christian song running through my mind.  Right now, it’s “Even If” by Mercy Me.  Here’s a link to the video.  If you’re going through a hard time, I warn you, this song may make you ball like a baby.  But, sometimes that’s okay.  Sometimes, that’s what we need.  Normally, I may post an excerpt from a song, but this one doesn’t repeat the chorus much, so I’m listing all of the lyrics (in case you have limited data, or don’t care to watch a video).  Below, I’ll talk about why this song is resonating with me so profoundly.

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

If you have suffered a significant loss, or are having a hard time, sometimes it’s hard . . . no . . . impossible, to understand why God is allowing it, especially if you’ve had faith that He would give you that miracle you have been pleading for.

I’ve mentioned before that I once heard a Pastor say that God answers all prayers.  Sometimes the answer is “Yes”, sometimes it’s “No”, and sometimes it’s “Wait a while”.

I’ve heard it said a couple of times now that even though we know God will come through, even if He doesn’t, we’ll still have faith.  It isn’t a matter of God coming through.  Even for those who are saved, and do their best to follow Christ, devastation can happen.  It rocks your world.  It tests your faith.  It may make you question everything you thought was true.

In the sermon we heard this past Sunday, the Pastor talked about times of trial and how, while difficult, they can lead to the greatest spiritual growth.  I have found that to be true of run-of-the-mill trials – job loss, financial uncertainty, conflict in relationships, etc.  But, when the devastation involves the suffering of someone else, it seems self-centered to think about how this event is helping me to grow spiritually.

So, what do you do with it?  How do you go on in faith in a God who has “let you down” so significantly?

I have learned to remind myself of, and lean on His promises.  He knows the future, extending beyond my life on this planet.  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 – English Standard Version).  How is He going to do this?  I have no idea.  That’s why He’s God, and I am not.

That’s one of many verses that I draw on.  I always thought this verse meant things would work out okay in this life:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 English Standard Version).  I now know that isn’t always the case.  God isn’t only concerned about our happiness while we’re on Earth.  He is more concerned about our eternity.  And, so, I must lean on these promises and expect that His plan extends beyond what I can know or understand on this finite side of the infinite.

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Get Used to Disappointment

Do you remember this exchange in “The Princess Bride”?  Inigo Montoya:  “Who are you?”  Wesley (man in black):  “No one of consequence.”  “I must know.”  “Get used to disappointment.”  “‘kay.”

I can so relate to Inigo’s respond here.  “‘kay.”  My memory of the scene is that he kind of shrugs.  Maybe he’s already used to disappointment.

Have you gotten used to disappointment?  I’m realizing that I have, and it’s not good.

I feel like I’ve been in a slump for a few years.  Don’t get me wrong.  We have so many blessings to be grateful for.  Yet, we also seem to have a history of “whatever can go wrong, will.”  God keeps carrying us through the obstacles, but it seems nothing ever comes easily.  I’ve gotten into this mode of bracing myself for problems.

This attitude of enduring has become a bad habit.  Enduring isn’t exactly being joyful.  Having low expectations is no way to live.

This became apparent to me last weekend.  We bought a camper two summers ago.  Even though it was a used pop-up, it was a pretty big financial investment for us.  We used it several times the first summer.  Last summer, we used it twice.  I felt this pressure to get our money’s worth out of it.  It became a job, instead of something fun.

We decided to sell it.  But, it was the end of the season, so we waited until mid-March to list it.  Still, I thought this was probably a little too early.  I was braced for it taking a long time, and for us getting the minimally acceptable selling price for it.

To my surprise, we sold it in 6 days for a price we were very pleased with.  The couple was nice and easy to work with.

Throughout this process, I expected something to go wrong at each step.  I expected to get no real interest, and to have to look for additional places to list it, periodically lowering the price.  When we had scheduled the appointment for them to look at it, I expected them to not show up.  It was overcast and rainy that day.  If they did show up, I expected that heavy rain would hinder us from showing it.  I expected them to back out.  I expected the funds not to go through.

When everything went through and went smoothly, I didn’t know how to react.  While I was thrilled, even when the deal was done, I expected something to go wrong.

I could list all of the things that have gone wrong for us, and you would see, in some ways, it’s reasonable for me to have this attitude.  It’s okay to prepare for everything not going perfectly, but developing the expectation that everything will always go wrong probably isn’t the healthiest of outlooks.

I’m not 100% sure how to correct this.  Maybe recognizing my attitude is the first step in changing it.

7 Bible Verses When You Need Comfort, Peace and Encouragement

A couple of years ago, a friend invited me to participate in a 7 Day Bible Challenge.  I was to share seven of my favorite verses.  I had received some terrible news shortly before the challenge; I was feeling very weak and in need of peace.  Seeking encouragement in scripture did bring me a sense of comfort.  I hope my selections do the same for you.  I was only able to find four of the seven, so I am including three that I have sought more recently.  These are from the English Standard Version.

Matthew 10:30  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

Psalm 84:12  O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

2 Corinthians 12:9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Psalm 27:1  The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Romans 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Hebrews 13:6  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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My Unglamorous Life

This is something I wrote a couple of years ago.  I’ve suffered loss and additional struggles since then – my own and those of people I care about.  The challenge to be happy in all circumstances has become more difficult.  Thank you to a friend who reminded me of Philippians 4:11:  “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  KJV

I watched Revolutionary Road the other night. I was enjoying the movie in the beginning. Good performances, and the couple’s last name was Wheeler (my maiden name). . . Toward the end, the movie started to make me mad. Kate Winslet’s character, April, had a pretty nice life. Two beautiful children and a nice home. She didn’t have a great marriage, but it was salvageable. But, she was deeply unhappy because she didn’t get to move to Paris. She thought she and her husband were special, and they didn’t belong in this suburban lifestyle. She wanted more.

I looked at my own life and thought how much April Wheeler would hate it. I live outside of a small town and work at a dirty old steel mill in another small town. It doesn’t get much more unglamorous than that. But, I am happy. I have my moments of grumbling, but overall, I am happy. I am extremely grateful for my children. I am grateful for the moral support and companionship I get from my husband and other friends and family. I am grateful to have a job where I work with nice people, generally feel appreciated and have the flexibility to attend my son’s school events. I am grateful for my country drive everyday. I think the cornfields, hay bales, old farmhouses and country churches I pass everyday are beautiful.

I couldn’t help but think that if April Wheeler could not be happy where she was, eventually she would be unhappy in Paris too. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have goals or want something different. But if your focus is on what you don’t have, instead of the blessings you do, you can never be happy.

Another Year Older. Am I Any Wiser?

No, it’s not my birthday.  I just had my one year anniversary as a Blogger.  What have I learned?  What have I accomplished?  Has it been worth it?

What have I learned?  A lot.  And nothing.  I’ve learned that blogging is extremely time consuming.  I’ve learned that, with my type of blog, it is very difficult to make an income.  I’ve learned that writing can be therapeutic, and perhaps that was the point for me from the start.

I have not learned how to create the level of traffic I would like, while maintaining a full-time job and mothering two young children.  I’ve learned that I have no idea which posts will be popular and which will not.

What have I accomplished?  I’ve been asked to write for an online magazine, and I’ve been featured as a guest on a number of my peer’s blogs.  I’ve managed to help some people by being open about my struggles with anxiety, the challenges of parenting, and facing aging as an older mother of young kids.  I’ve made real friends and started my own blogging group.  I’ve figured out how to share my personal experiences without sharing too much about the people close to me (I think.  No one has expressed upset with anything I’ve shared anyway.  Although . . . come to think of it, I have later deleted a couple of posts that seemed questionable . . . ).

Has it been worth it?  Well, let’s think about what the cost has been.  There is a financial cost to a blog.  There is a time commitment.  It’s definitely cost me hours of sleep over the last year.  The writing part, while time consuming, is not as demanding as the promotion and networking.  It’s cost me my peace if mind, at times.

What have I gained?  Some confidence in my writing.  I’ve been given some affirmation that sharing experiences and thoughts can be beneficial to others.  I’ve learned that I am capable of creating something fresh, new and unique.

I’ve decided to renew the blog for another year.  So, I guess that means I have determined it is worth it.

Am I any wiser?  While I’m open to ideas and advice, I’ve found that not all advice works for everyone.  I’ve learned to accept that what I write about is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  That’s okay.  In some ways, through trying different approaches and different positions, I’ve come full circle.  My instinct from the start was that I had something worthwhile to offer, and I feel that’s proven to be true.  So, perhaps, so far, this little adventure in blogging has simply confirmed what I already knew.

Rocking Motherhood

I had not heard of this #RockingMotherhood tag until Jaclyn Bree’s thoughtful nomination, inviting me to participate.  Check out Jaclyn’s blog Jaclyn Bree:  Living the Rocky Life.  Jaclyn shares creative DIY, money-saving ideas.

Soooooo, my assignment is to list some ways I am rocking this motherhood thing.  This is not easy for me, as I feel humility is always the way to go.  But, it has given me a little time to reflect and think about some things that have worked well with my kids.  In the spirit of positivity, I won’t list all of the things we’ve tried that did not go so well!

  • I read to the kids every night.  Both of my kids love books.  In fact, an extra book is a reward for taking a bath.  That started when my son was around 3-years-old.  He used to scream when I rinsed the shampoo out of his hair (it wasn’t because it was getting in his eyes – he just decided he no longer wanted water on his head).  I bribed him with an extra book if he could get through a bath without screaming.  It worked beautifully, and four years later, both kids still remind me at bedtime that they had a bath, so they get an extra book.  Now my son often reads a book to me at bedtime.
  • I make my kids somewhat responsible for figuring out how to get along with each other.  My kids fight over toys way more than I would like.  My husband and I established a rule.  If they keep their toys in their bedroom, they don’t have to share.  If it’s in the living room, they have to share.  This has provided a side benefit of them keeping fewer toys in the living room as well.  It also gives them some control over the decision-making.
  • We make a big deal of all of the milestones.  There are disadvantages to being older parents.  But, one of the advantages for our kids is that my husband and I waited a long time to have these babies, and we don’t want to miss a thing.  Whether it’s a birthday or preschool graduation, we celebrate!
  • I make sure my kids know I am happy to see them.  I got this advice from the book, “Hold On to Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.  This is one part of many in creating a positive association so your kids will trust you and keep a bond with you as you guide them through childhood.  When my son was three and four, he used to greet me and be excited to see me when I got home.  My daughter still does and is.  But, now that my son is 7, he doesn’t even acknowledge me sometimes.  So, I seek him out, give him a hug and ask how his day was.
  • I force my kids to interact with adults and other kids.  My kids don’t have tablets or phones.  If we go out to dinner, they are not allowed to bring a book.  While, giving them something to occupy them so the adults can talk, might seem like a break for me, I don’t think that’s serving them well long-term.  They need to learn to function in social situations.
  • I try not to downplay compliments people give me about my kids.  When someone tells me my kids are beautiful or sweet, I agree with them.  I’ll say, “I’m not going to argue”, or “I think so too, but I realize I am biased.”  I won’t say I’ve never been guilty of saying things like, “They have their moments”, because the tendency is for us to think of them as an extension of ourselves, so we want to deflect those compliments.  But, they hear us talking about them.  They are their own people, and I want them to know I am their biggest fan, so I’m making an effort to agree about positive things said about them as much as possible.
  • We expose them to new experiences.  We have been fortunate enough to be able to take some trips over the last couple of years.  We go to a lot of zoos and aquariums.  We also visit state capitol buildings, ride trains and go to museums.  Of course, all of these things cost money.  But, there are less expensive, and even free things we can do with our kids that allow them to see new things and interact with different people.  I take the kids to the library (free!), and along those lines, our library has free passes to the local zoo.  Some of the local museums offer free kids’ days, and we often take advantage of those.  We’ve driven to different states to see family.  Driving doesn’t cost too much these days (gas prices are down now) and they get to see all sorts of new things passing through different states.

So, am I really rocking motherhood?  In some ways yes, in others no.  I’m sure all mothers have days when they feel they are totally failing, so participating in this actually did give me some needed encouragement. Thank you, Jaclyn, for the opportunity.

The #RockingMotherhood tag rules:

  1. Thank the blogger that tagged you and link to their blog.
  2. List 10 things you believe make you a good mother (this is just a guideline. It can be more or less than 10.)
  3. Tag 3 – 5 bloggers to join in the #RockingMotherhood Tag.
  4. Grab the #RockingMotherhgood badge below and add it to your post or sidebar.

I would like to nominate the following mothers for the #RockingMotherhood tag:

Belinda at Better Than Busy
Jewel at Write away, Mommy:  Becoming Better Writers and Mothers
and Dawn at Just Doing My Best

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Disclosure: Love, Mrs. Mommy and all participating bloggers are not held responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill their prize obligations. Love, Mrs. Mommy received nominal monetary compensation to host this giveaway. This giveaway is in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook or any other social media site. The winner will be randomly drawn by Giveaway Tools and will be notified by email. Winner has 48 hours to reply before a replacement winner will be drawn. If you would like to participate in an event like this please contact LoveMrsMommy (at) gmail (dot) com.